[Note: An excursus again this week. The limits of my current time and space will not allow me to record easily, so the audio version of this blog may not be available. Today’s thoughts come from the lessons I’m working on for Evangelist 301 for the Texas District of the LCMS.]
Note 2: I preached on Sunday, October 17 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Houston. Click here for the podcast recording of that message.
When the church was growing in its earliest days, a conflict arose between two groups of people. The widows of the Greek-speaking believers were thought to be overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Luke records this in Acts 6:1-7.
But as the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.
2 So the Twelve called a meeting of all the believers. They said, “We apostles should spend our time teaching the word of God, not running a food program. 3 And so, brothers, select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will give them this responsibility. 4 Then we apostles can spend our time in prayer and teaching the word.”
5 Everyone liked this idea, and they chose the following: Stephen (a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit), Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas of Antioch (an earlier convert to the Jewish faith). 6 These seven were presented to the apostles, who prayed for them as they laid their hands on them.
7 So God’s message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted, too. [New Living Translation]
God’s people take a difficult situation, a crisis, an interchurch conflict, and turn it into an opportunity to show Christian love. And God brought even more people into the kingdom.
They did that because they believed and were living out the truth that Peter would later write: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” – 1 Peter 2:9
As a believer comes forth out of the waters of Baptism, priesthood comes along as well. The three-fold dimension — sacrifice, prayer and teaching — still marks the priesthood, but the New Testament priesthood portrays these responsibilities differently. There is no reference in the New Testament to any priestly office other than the royal priesthood of the baptized. In the New Testament individuals are still called and authorized for the public ministry on behalf of the royal priesthood, but “priest” is not included in the various titles applied to the church’s public ministers. The Royal Priesthood by the LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations
If we relegate all ministry in the congregation only to called pastors, we hobble the body of Christ, and the love of God may not be as fully expressed and experienced. No one is exempt from sharing God’s love. Loving God and loving neighbor are the two great commands of God. The care of our neighbor is not to be relegated only to official church workers. That reality is shown in a number of Bible verses:
Matthew 28:16-20 Even the doubters are given the Great Commission.
Revelation 22:17 Not only the Church (bride), and the Holy Spirit call people to come, but also those who hear the invitation are to invite others to come and receive the water of life.
John 15 Jesus teaches his followers a new command, to love one another.
Matthew 7 Jesus teaches us to love even our enemies.
So although I’m no longer serving a congregation as a pastor, I am still sharing God’s love. I may do it in formal ways, but whenever you or I listen patiently to a lonely friend, pray earnestly for a neighbor in need, provide care for a child in a young family, or point someone to Jesus as their Savior and only true hope, I am sharing God’s love. Help me, Lord, to do that…to your glory, and my neighbor’s good. Amen!